Tag Archives: Workshop

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Hong Kong Workshop on Textual Change in the Hebrew Bible

by Ville Mäkipelto

Textual scholars often work with small textual variants and single incidents of change. A detailed analysis of the evidence is important; however, there is an increasing need to understand the broader processes of textual change in the context of ancient Judaism. Could the evolutionary theory, systems approach, or Star Wars saga illuminate the textual history of the Hebrew Bible?

Hong Kong skyline as seen from the Victoria Peak (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

At the end of May, from 26th to 28th, team 3 gathered in Hong Kong with the desire to sketch a broader picture of change in the textual and editorial history of the Hebrew Bible by applying new analogues and theoretical frameworks. The workshop was hosted by Francis Borchardt in the Lutheran Theological Seminary. In addition to Team 3 members and affiliates, we had the delight of hosting three brilliant guests: Sara J. Milstein, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia; Ron Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California Berkeley; and Holger Strutwolf, director of the Institute for New Testament Textual research in Münster.

The participants of the workshop were asked to prepare a paper in which they seek to explain the broader phenomena of textual transmission in the ancient world. We were encouraged to go beyond conventional models of textual change and find new ways of understanding the phenomenon from other fields and processes of change. Unconventional and original ideas were encouraged, and traditional ways of thinking were discouraged. The papers were circulated beforehand; thus, most of the time at the workshop was used for discussing and evaluating the new insights together. This proved out to be a constructive and fruitful way of working.

The guest speakers of the workshop brought important perspectives to the discussions. In her paper, Sara J. Milstein applied insights from cladistics—a tool for classification and categorization of species in biology—into textual studies. Her paper demonstrated that cladistics can serve as a helpful model for understanding the common ancestries of biblical and other ancient Near Eastern texts. With the tools of cladistics, she discovered new traits from the transmission of the so-called flood myth. Continuing in a similar vein, Ron Hendel illustrated that the field of textual studies can benefit from the tools used in evolutionary biology to map “communities of descent”. He noted the similarities of building stemmas in both fields, illustrating his point by comparing stemmas such as the vertebrate cladogram and the textual transmission of Exodus. Responding to recent nominalist and postmodern critics, Hendel insisted that—much like studying the evolution of various life forms on earth—studying the historical relationships of various texts within their larger communities of descent constitutes an important part of textual research. The third guest of the workshop, Holger Strutwolf, provided insights from New Testament textual criticism by exploring the transmission of the so-called “western text” of Acts. Drawing from exhaustive statistical and qualitative analysis, Strutwolf illuminated the creative changes observable in this “living text”. In the discussion, many parallels were found between these processes of transmission and the transmission of some traditions of the Hebrew scriptures (e.g. the Samaritan Pentateuch).

Many students and faculty members of the Lutheran Theological Seminary also took part in the discussions of the workshop (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

The papers from Team 3 researchers constituted a diverse collection of insights into textual changes in Hebrew scriptures. Mika Pajunen applied perspectives from hurricane formation and river deltas to the transmission of traditions in Second Temple Judaism. Ville Mäkipelto modeled the processes of textual transmission as a complex adaptive system—a recent theoretical framework within the interdisciplinary field of system studies. Reinhard Müller formulated theses related to the nature of editorial developments in the Hebrew Bible and compared these editorial processes to the growth of an unattended forest. Christoph Levin addressed the dilemma of changeability and sacredness of Hebrew Bible texts by elaborating on the editorial process of Fortschreibung. Tuukka Kauhanen offered more precise probability concepts for decision making in textual studies with insights from philosophical probability theories—especially the Bayesian framework. Timo Tekoniemi illustrated convincingly that there are several parallel phenomena in the editing of the Star Wars saga and the editorial processes of the Hebrew Bible. Juha Pakkala presented a classification of the diverse editorial processes visible in the documented evidence of editing. Finally, Francis Borchardt explored ancient models of publication as found in a plethora of texts from the Second Temple Period and discussed their implications for understanding textual change.

Participants enjoying dim sum lunch (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).

Hong Kong turned out to be a key player in the success of the workshop. The location of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in the middle of a beautiful subtropical forest provided an experiential framework for the title of the workshop. The timetable allowed for some short excursions to places such as the Victoria Peak, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, and Che Kung Temple. The participants were especially grateful for the rich food culture of Hong Kong consisting of, for example, delicious Michelin-star awarded dim sum, varieties of roasted meat, traditional Chinese lunch, and unique street food.

The insights gained from the workshop will hopefully affect the way we do research in the future. It is clear that new interdisciplinary insights and collaboration are needed to better understand the broader phenomena of textual change in the Hebrew Bible. There will be no single collected volume from the workshop, but some of the papers and models will eventually find their way into various publications.

Learning from a local scribe (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).
Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).
Beautiful garden at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (pic by Ville Mäkipelto).




Workshop: “Social-Scientific Theorizing and Biblical Studies” (26-27 April, Helsinki)

Place: Faculty Room 5th floor, Vuorikatu 3, Faculty of Theology

Wednesday 26 April

10:00‒12:00 Prof. David Chalcraft (Liverpool John Moores University)
The most useful sociologist(s) to think with in Biblical Studies (depending on the task in hand)

13:30‒14:30 Dr. Jessica Keady (University of Helsinki)
From PhD to Postdoctoral Studies: Gender, Purity, Performance, and Positioning in the Dead Sea Scrolls

14:30‒15:00 coffee

15:00‒16:00 Dr. Jason Silverman (University of Helsinki)
The Socio-Political Implications of Language Choice: Towards Analyzing Persian Period Judaean Communication using the Sociolinguistic Concepts of “Code-Switching” and “Code- Mixing”.

Thursday 27 April

9:00‒10:00 Dr. Joanna Töyräänvuori (University of Helsinki)
How to Study Strategies Used by Minority Cultures in Dealing with Oppressive Ideological Messages in the Ancient World

10:00‒11:00 Dr. Jessi Orpana (University of Helsinki)
On Cultural Negotiation

11:00‒12:00 Dr. Doc. Jutta Jokiranta (University of Helsinki)
On the Fuzzy ‘Authority’ & Conclusions

16:15‒18:00 CSTT Lecture Series: Prof. David J. Chalcraft, (Liverpool John Moores University)
Moving Through Texts: The Rituals of Reading and the Sociology of Mobility

Report on the “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”

By Saana Svärd and Agnès Garcia-Ventura

The “Second Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East” took place in Barcelona February 1-3, 2017. The workshop was hosted by IPOA, the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies of the University of Barcelona (Spain), and organized in cooperation with the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” (University of Helsinki, Finland). Organizers were Agnès Garcia-Ventura (IPOA, University of Barcelona) and Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki). The workshop was a continuation of the “First Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East.” The first workshop was organized by the same two scholars at the University of Helsinki in October 2014 and hosted by the Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions.”

The aim of both meetings was to discuss different methodological and theoretical approaches to gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and to enable fruitful dialogue between these approaches. Moreover, for this second workshop, colleagues from neighboring disciplines were also encouraged to submit proposals, in order to enrich these conversations further. As a result, the second workshop included colleagues from the disciplines of Assyriology, Archaeology, Egyptology, Phoenician and Punic studies, and Biblical studies (see the full program).

The conference lasted three days and featured 33 communications, a poster session where six posters were presented, and a projects panel where nine new and ongoing projects where discussed. The event was well attended and all in all included roughly 90 participants, including speakers and poster presenters. The speakers and poster presenters came from various universities in twelve countries, namely Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The results of such a rich and diverse conference cannot be summed up in a short blog post. Suffice it to say here that the sheer chronological, geographical and methodological scope, as well as the general high quality of papers, promises good things for the future of gender studies within the context of ancient Near Eastern studies.

The organizers: Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Saana Svärd

Since both workshops have been well received and the number of participants has increased, the organizers decided to plan a third workshop in the series, hoping the initiative will have continuity as a biannual conference. Thus, the third edition of the meeting, co-organized in cooperation with Professor Katrien De Graef, will be hosted by the University of Ghent (Belgium) in 2019. More information will be published in due time. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions and/or if you want us to keep you posted on other future ventures related to gender studies and ancient Near Eastern studies we may launch. You may contact us at: agnes.ventura[AT]gmail.com or saana.svard[AT]helsinki.fi.

Workshop: “Kings and Power: Exploring Jewish Texts in their Hellenistic Contexts”

A workshop at the University of Helsinki, 3-4 December, 2016 

Keynote speakers:
>  Prof. Katell Berthelot (CNRS, France)
>  Prof. Joan Taylor (King’s College London, UK)

The goal of the workshop is to contribute to the discussion what was Hellenistic Judaism. The presentations of the meeting will contextualize Jewish texts dealing with kingship and power taking into account that Judaism and Hellenism are not two separate entities; rather, Jewish texts were written within their various Hellenistic contexts. The plural “Hellenistic contexts” highlights the numerous forms that Judaism took in the late second temple period.

More information to follow about the call for papers during the summer 2016.

The workshop is organized by the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” (cstt.fi)

Reflections on Workshop “Functions of Psalms and Prayers in Late Second Temple Period Judaism” (Copenhagen, May 7-9)

By Jeremy Penner and Mika Pajunen

On May 7-9 scholars from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and the United States gathered in Copenhagen for a workshop titled, “Functions of Psalms and Prayers in Late Second Temple Period Judaism.” The workshop took place under the auspices of the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Theology, and was organized by Mika Pajunen, Trine Bjørnung Hasselbalch, Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme, Jeremy Penner, and Årstein Justnes. This workshop was part one of a two-part program, the second to be held in Helsinki on September 24-25 of this year.

Continue reading Reflections on Workshop “Functions of Psalms and Prayers in Late Second Temple Period Judaism” (Copenhagen, May 7-9)

Call for Papers: Ancient Jewish Cosmology-workshop (Jerusalem, June 15-16)

CSTT Workshop: Ancient Jewish Cosmology – Sacred Time and Order
École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem, June 15‒16, 2015

CSTT’s Team 4 “Society and Religion in Late Second Temple Judaism” is organising a workshop on Ancient Jewish Cosmology. Cosmology is here broadly understood to deal with the cosmic world order and origin, but also matters related to acknowledging, finding out, and living out this cosmic order in everyday life. The aim is to identify forms and mechanisms of change in the notions and practices relating to Jewish cosmology: the origin, nature, and fate of the universe. Also ritual practices can be related to this theme: e.g., which beliefs are transmitted through ritual practices, prayer and divination; how the understanding of the divine is reflected in the earthly sphere (architecture, collective practices, calendar, correct prayer times, etc.). Cosmology plays a role in the way in which societies structure themselves and communities select and cherish their values and moral systems. Of special interest is the influence of Hellenistic philosophy and practices on Jewish thought.  Continue reading Call for Papers: Ancient Jewish Cosmology-workshop (Jerusalem, June 15-16)

Workshop on Text, Ritual and Magic (Helsinki, April 14-15)

The workshop focuses on the interface between texts and magical or ritual practices. As a starting point, we wish to question and deconstruct the dichotomy between magic and religion. We are particularly interested in texts as material artefacts and their magical and ritual uses as well as practices described in texts. The presentations cover a variety of source materials and methodological approaches as the workshop brings together scholars working in different fields.  Continue reading Workshop on Text, Ritual and Magic (Helsinki, April 14-15)

Workshop: “Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”

Host: Centre of Excellence in “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions”, University of Helsinki

Organisers: Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki) & Agnès
Garcia-Ventura (“Sapienza” Università di Roma)

Where:  University of Helsinki (Finland), Main building (Fabianinkatu 33)

When: October 27-28, 2014

Aim: To discuss different methodological approaches to gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and enable a fruitful dialogue between these approaches.

Registration: Registration to attend is now open (there is no
conference fee). To register please send an email before September
15, 2014 to Saana Svärd and/or Agnès Garcia-VenturaContinue reading Workshop: “Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”

Call for Papers: “Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”

Call for papers has closed, please see latest information on the workshop.

Host: Centre of Excellence in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions, University of Helsinki

Organisers: Saana Svärd (University of Helsinki) / Agnès Garcia-Ventura (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

When and where:  University of Helsinki (Finland), October 26th-28th 2014

After the workshop held in the last Rencontre Assyriologique (Ghent, July 2013) titled “Gender, Methodology and Assyriology” the organisers (Agnès Garcia-Ventura and Saana Svärd) are now pleased to announce a new workshop titled “Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East”.

The four keynote speakers are (in alphabetical order): Ann Guinan
(Babylonian Section, University of PA. Museum of Archaeology and
Anthropology) / Stephanie Langin-Hooper (Southern Methodist
University, Dallas, Texas) / Marie Louise Stig Sørensen (University of Cambridge) / Ilona Zsolnay (University of Pennsylvania). The aim of the meeting is to discuss different methodological approaches to
gender within the framework of ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology, art history and text studies) and enable a fruitful dialogue between these approaches. Proposals dealing with these issues are welcome.

We encourage you to submit poster proposals instead of presentations as there are currently only a few time slots available for presentations. A specific poster session will be scheduled. Please send titles and abstracts (150-300 words) by June 10th. We will inform about acceptance of proposals (as presentations or posters) before June 20th.

Please send titles and abstracts to Saana Svärd (saana.svard@helsinki.fi) and/or Agnès Garcia-Ventura (agnes.ventura@gmail.com)